do squats work abs

Do Squats Work Abs?

Every athlete and fitness enthusiast will tell you that the squat is the “king of all exercises”. Squats work most of the body muscles.

Do squats work abs? Abs and oblique provide stability when performing squats. These muscles stretch tight to build sufficient tension and hold your body in proper posture as you perform squats.

Do Squats work abs? 

abs and squats

Picture a human body without the trunk. Imagine your shoulders and head joined directly to the hip.

Now:

You can further imagine this trunkless creature performing squats! Interesting, isn’t it?

Snap back to reality.

Do squats work abs? An in-depth knowledge of your muscles or muscle groups will help you understand the impact of specific exercises to various muscles on your body. If you don’t know which muscle groups to work simultaneously, don’t take on any exercises yet.

Squats proper form will work the thighs, calves, lower back, obliques and abdominal muscles.

This exercise works abs both in the upward and downward motions. The abs build tension to handle and balance the weight on the upper part of the body including the weights you may be using. 

Aerobics exercises are often credited with burning calories.

Squats, also, burn calories and that goes a long way in flattening your stomach. As the abs are intensely engaged in load balancing and stabilization while performing squats, they crush extra calories in your belly.

This article will help you understand squats anatomy, how to perform squats, muscles targeted by squats and the benefits of squats. It further shades light on how not to do squats and the injuries associated with wrong squat postures.

What Muscles Do Squats Target?

Muscle engagement while performing squats depends on the squat variation, body posture, motion range and direction. Majorly, squats target muscles of the thighs, legs, lower back, abs and core. However, with slight variations, squats may as well work your shoulder, arm and chest muscles.

You need to know how to do squats properly to target the intended muscles.

1. Adductor magnus: This is your inner thigh muscle. It harmonizes with the glutens maximum in hip extension. It is intensely engaged when the squat is at mid-range and transfers the tension to the glutes maximus to finalize the full extension of the hip.

However, to work the adductor magnus more you will need to take a wider stance. A Narrow squat stance (shoulder width) reliefs the adductor magnus from greater tension.

2. Quadriceps: They are located on the front part of the thigh. They are the most worked muscles while performing squats. From the bottom driving up, quadriceps work hard to push you back to the standing position.

They are intensely engaged when you are at the bottom most position of your squat especially when the knees are far forward. Throughout the squats, they tighten to build tension required to control the up and down motions.

3. Glutes (butt): Your glutes are made of three muscles: Glute munimus, Glute maximus, and Glute medius. Squats recruit the glutes maximus and medius.

Glute medius
muscle is  located on the side. It is worked during hip abduction. It enables lateral movement of your leg: the outward movement. They help place your knees in a plane perpendicularly aligned to your toes. This reduces pressure on your knee joint and helps prevent possible injury to it.

Glutes maximus
are the muscles at the back of your glute. Actually the ones that we sit on. They extend the hip as you sink into the squat and pull back in line of force as you push the load up to resume the standing position. To the ladies reading here, no good butt comes without a squat.

3. Abs and Obliques: These are the ultimate stabilizers in squats. Remember, your upper body handles and balances all the weight in a squat. Your thighs don’t work under pressure of their own weight.

 Abs and obliques therefore work very hard to ensure good posture and stability of your upper body. It is in this stability that we find the weight balance required for squat proper form. They help place the weight exactly where it is supposed to be.

4. Hamstrings: Located at the back of your thigh. Just like your quads, they are worked in both the downward and upward motion of your squats. They work hard to help regulate your pace in either direction.

As you deep to the bottom, the hamstring tightens for knee joint stabilization. It is also activated to support the glutes during hip extension.

5. Erectors: These muscles are located along the outer part of your spine. They guard and guide you spine as you perform squats or any other exercises that engage the back. A rounded spine increases pressure on the vertebrae.

The erectus will stretch to build pressure and hold the spine stiff in the desired posture. This helps transfer the upward force from your knees straight to the load on your shoulder (the bar). Forward leans work erectors the hardest.

6. Calves: Your calf muscles: gastrocnemius and soleus are hit by the ripple effects of the tension built on the thigh muscles as you deep into your squat and push back to a standing position.

Flexion of the ankle under pressure tightens these muscles as the move up and down. They tighten hard enough to support the Achilles tendon thereby enhancing the overall stability.

You may also like: 4 day workout program that includes squats to work your whole body

How Squats Benefit Your Body?

A compound exercise yields compound results. By working almost every muscle, bone and joint on your body, the squat has amazingly holistic benefits to your entire body.

Squat is a magical exercise that renews your whole system in a phenomenal way.

Increase Strength: Strength refers to the ability of your muscles to generate sufficient resistance to counter an external force.

Deeping into squats regularly with extra weights on your shoulders or arms trains your body to gain strength as it resists and controls the gravity force that comes with the weights.

Away from squats, increased strength will gradually manifest itself in your day to day. You will definitely realize that you are performing some tasks with much ease than weeks before you did squats.

Simultaneous Muscle Builder: Squats is a compound exercise. Compound means it works a ton of muscles simultaneously. By hitting many muscle groups at one time, squats stimulate the production of more testosterone hormones which helps build more muscles.

Squats work abs, obliques, thigh and back muscles. This therefore means that they will proportionally develop at the same time to get you in amazing shape.

Best Calorie Crusher: Squats is the ultimate calorie crusher. This is because of the compound nature of squats to simultaneously recruit tons of muscles and enable you to work with heavier weights.

Working the thighs, lower back, abs, and obliques under the intense pressure of weights will definitely burn as much calories as you may need to achieve a flat belly and firm thighs.

Improves Bone Density and Strength: If your bones aren’t breaking as you perform squats then they are definitely getting stronger. With the consistent and regular vertical compression during squats, bones increase their density and become much stronger.

 A strong skeletal system is the foundation on which all other strengths and balances are defined. It doesn’t pay off to pile tons of muscles on weak bones. Does it?

Improves Flexibility: If performing squats had qualifications, flexibility should be top of the list. Since performing squats has benefits, flexibility is on that list too.

Deeping into squats beyond parallel calls for general body and joint flexibility. However strong you might be, a rigid and stiff body won’t get you squatting but squatting will eventually make you flexible.

 Your legs, hips and back are subjected to a range of movements that will leave behind a trail of flexibility. You will not have to avoid the dance floor anymore. 

Trains Endurance: By simple definition, endurance is your body’s ability to remain active and withstand trauma or fatigue for a longer period of time. Endurance is not inborn, it is acquired.

Squats train your body to develop high levels of endurance. Resisting fatigue keeps you active and alert for longer periods and this improves your day to day productivity. Tasks have not become lighter; it’s just that squats have given you endurance!

Improved Cardio Fitness: While some physicians may argue that squats are not good for the heart, results indicate that squats work your heart. Taking deep breath, holding and releasing at controlled rate under intense pressure of the weights improves your cardio fitness significantly.

The heart and lung are put to test in the whole process and this improves their performance.

Stronger Joints: Squats work almost all the joints on your body. The knee, ankle, hip and by extension the shoulder, wrist, and elbow joints are all called to action as you perform squats.

Working your joints and the connective tissues regularly improves joint strength and this helps prevent falls, ligament diseases, and other injuries.

Balance and body coordination: Did you know that squats work your brain? Training with the bar and weights across your shoulders needs proper balance and coordination.

Squats activate the medulla oblongata, the part of your brain which is responsible for balance and coordination. Then brain is summoned to assist you all the way as you perform squats especially when squatting with free weight.

How to Do Squats: 7 Steps to Squat

You cannot squat on a bouncing castle. A firm and flat floor is the first consideration for squats. Now that you know this, let us deep into a squat.

  • Get under the rack and position the bar on you upper back. Ensure you balance the weight equally on either side.
  • Stand straight to load the weight squarely on your traps.
  • Take a shoulder-width stance with your feet flat on the floor and turned 30o
  • Take a deep breath and hold as you initiate the squat. This will help tighten your body and build enough tension to resist the weights
  • Sink into the squat steadily. Do this by simultaneously bending your knees outward, pushing your hip outward and maintaining your lower back at neutral position.
  • Break parallel by allowing your hips to dip just below your knees level. Don’t go too deep. Never exhale at the bottom of the squat; you may lose the tension requires to push you back to top.
  • Push back to the top keeping the bar vertically aligned to the middle of your foot. Now that you are back to top, you can exhale.

Come on champ, you have just performed a squat! I know you won’t mind sinking into another one.

More: Here is the right way to incorporate squats into a 5 day workout plan

Squats Proper Form: Getting it Right

Squats can permanently confine you in a wheelchair for the rest of your life! Yes, you heard me right. When poorly performed, squats can cause long-term injuries to your spine, knees, or hip joint.

It is essential that you master squat proper form to get the best out of it. Knowing how to do squats right helps you avoid injuries and make the best out of squats.

1. Feet and Stance Starting from the bottom, your feet must be flat on a steady and level ground. Do not squat on unsteady or bouncy base as this will result in imbalance which may be disastrous.

Assume a shoulder width stance with your feet at a 300 outward position. This ensures a stable foundation for your squat.

2. Knees Always push your knees outward to the direction of your feet as you deep into a squat. Doing so controls the pressure exerted on your knees and enhances stability. On your way up, keep your knees out until the naturally straighten as you get to the top.

3. Hip And Lower back Push your hip out and sink it steadily as you sit into the squat. Hold steady and tight to avoid any twist.

Your lower back should maintain a neutral position.

Remember, while at the bottoms is when your spine at lower back encounters most tension in squats. Protect it at all cost. Maintain proper posture; do not round or over arch your lower back.

4. Upper Body Tighten your shoulder blades to form an arch to support the bar. Do not let the bar rest on your spine at the bottom of your neck. This may cause pain.

Take a deep breath and keep your chest out. Align your head to your torso and avoid turning it as you maintain a neutral position. Don’t look up nor face down

5. Breathing pattern You cannot travel down the squat valley on flat tires. Take a deep breath at the top and hold it to build pressure from within as you go down the squat.

At the bottom, hold it, you still need the pressure to propel you back to standing position. Once at the top, you can now exhale. Pause, take a breath and go on another trip.

6. Bar Position Ensure the bar balances steadily on your trap before you try squatting. During your squat, the bar should move in a path vertically aligned to the middle of your foot. Avoid any horizontal movements as they may result in twisting of the spine, knee or hip joints.

Squats Variations

Squats Variations

If there is an exercise with plenty of variations, then that is squats. Apart from the traditional barbells squats, you can vary your squats with dumbbells, resistance band, kettle bell, yoga ball or simply use you own body weight.

With all these, you are still in the squats corner.

Barbell Back Squats: This is the traditional weightlifters’ squats. Intense and energy demanding by nature. You put the bar on your shoulders and take the squats proper form. 

Steadily sink into your squats. This is “King of all squats”. Intensely engages tons of muscle groups from thigh, leg, hip, knee, abs and oblique.

Barbell Front Squats: In this variation, the bar is put on the front of your shoulders. Front squats work your abs, obliques and knee much harder than the back squats.

You have to keep your torso tight and in an upright posture to balance the weight and place it in proper path; perpendicular to the mid-foot.

Dumbbell Squats: This refers to a cluster of squats in which dumbbells are incorporated.

You may lift dumbbells with arms straight above your shoulder, hang on the sides, hold arm stretched in front at shoulder level or raise and hold sideways at shoulder level. 

These and tens of other dumbbell techniques in squats help you personalize your squats exercises and narrow your target. Dumbbell squats is the “freedom song” in squat exercises.

You can use a sissy squat machine for stability when performing this exercise.

Body Weight squats: In this squat variation, your body is challenged by its own weight. This is a simple natural squat. Get your body in proper squat form, maintain an upright posture for your upper body and sink into squats. 

Your upper body is the resistance weight here; at vertically aligning it to your heels a you squat. Do not lean forward.

Sumo Squats: Take a regular squats stance only that in Sumo squats, you may need to position your feet a little wider than the hips. By doing so, you are targeting muscles of your inner thigh. 

In Sumo squats, you can use your body weight or you can further challenge your body by grabbing a kettle bell form additional weight

Jump Squats: This variation injects a little “playing” in squats exercise.

It is the explosive kid in the house. It is one of the body weight variations where on reaching bottom of your squat, you explode into a jump and land on your toes. This is the darling of your heart. It increases your heart rate.

Goblet Squats: Unlike in barbell squats where the weight is over your shoulder, in goblet squats you lift weight from down in between your heels.

You may hold a dumbbell or kettle bell for the challenge. You will assume a wider stance than normal. This variation engages the inner thigh and additionally your arm muscles.

Leg or Split Squats: This is a one leg challenge. You stand on one leg and  raise the other leg in front or behind you as straight as possible.

At beginner level, you may hold onto a chair as you grow into perfection. In a front leg raise, you target you glute by positioning your upper body to place weight in your heel. The back leg raise targets thigh and by extension gluten and abs. 

Squats Injuries: 5 Common Squats Mistakes That Cause injury

The goal of every exercise is to make you stronger and healthier. Regular exercise helps you skip a session or two with your physician.

But when done in the wrong way, you will be at your Doctor’s consultation room sooner than you expected. Here are some of the common squat mistakes that can cause injuries or pain to your body.

  • Lower back: The deeper the squat, the more the strain on your lower back. Pain in your lower back is as a result of rounding or overarching of the back. Always maintain lower back in neutral posture and avoid going too low in to your squats.
  • Hip Joint: Squatting with your knees forward (instead of 300 outwards) causes pain at the hip and also the mid back. You will also experience pain around you hip if you do not finish your squats in a completely straight standing position. Don’t do incomplete squats, they hurt the hip and lower back.
Squats Injuries

The goal of every exercise is to make you stronger and healthier. Regular exercise helps you skip a session or two with your physician.

But when done in the wrong way, you will be at your Doctor’s consultation room sooner than you expected. Here are some of the common squat mistakes that can cause injuries or pain to your body.

  • Lower back: The deeper the squat, the more the strain on your lower back. Pain in your lower back is as a result of rounding or overarching of the back. Always maintain lower back in neutral posture and avoid going too low in to your squats.
  • Hip Joint: Squatting with your knees forward (instead of 300 outwards) causes pain at the hip and also the mid back. You will also experience pain around you hip if you do not finish your squats in a completely straight standing position. Don’t do incomplete squats, they hurt the hip and lower back.
  • Knee joint: The knee is in constant activity as you perform squats. Failure to observe squats proper form exposes your knee joint to strain, twist or even dislocation. Do not train with too much weight on your shoulder. you may need to consult your trainer for a recommended weights in relation to your level.
  • Neck and Upper Back: You will experience neck and upper back pain if you perform squats with the bar in contact with the spine. Endeavor to tighten your upper back muscles so that your traps arch to hold the bar. Allowing the bar rest on the spine can cause severe injury and the base of your neck
  • Foot pain: It is not yet a squat unless you are on your feet. Your foot bears all the weight as you perform squats. You may experience pain at the ankle if you don’t balance all the weight properly. Your feet also need to be flat on a level and steady ground to prevent it from twisting your ankle.
NB: You can avoid injuring by using any of these squat machines

Squats can work entirely all the muscle groups on your body depending on the variation.

As a compound exercise, squats hit several muscle groups simultaneously therefore saves you time as compared to isolated drills. Engaging multiple muscles is also the best way to crush more calories faster.

Apart from muscles, squats work many joints on your body including ankles, hip, knee wrist and even the shoulder. This improves your mobility, general body posture and, coordination. Behold the “king of all exercises”

Squats: Myth and Fact

Myth: It is commons belief that squats only work your thigh and leg muscles. This is attributed to the great thigh and leg muscles pain that one experiences during the first days of performing squats.

Fact: Squats work multiple muscle groups on your body in almost equal measure. Squats recruit tons of muscles at one given time. Results indicate that by just doing squats, without any other exercises, your entire body will re-shape within one months’ time.

Do Squats work abs FAQs

1. Do squats make your abs sore?

Over-training and failure to observe squats proper form is likely to leave you with little soreness in your abs. You have to know how to do squats right and when it’s time to stop.

2. Are front squats good for abs?

Of all squats variations, front squats work abs the most. Your entire trunk musculature is worked consistently when you perform front squats. The weight is more on your front and you are in an almost upright posture. This works your abs harder than the back squats.

3. Can squats give you a flat stomach?

Flat stomach is achieved by exercises that burn calories and cut fats around your belly. Since squats work your abs and oblique, you will certainly achieve a flat stomach with squats.

Final Thoughts: What muscles do squats target?

Squat is a compound exercise that targets the thigh, leg, hip, lower back, abs and obliques. However, different squats variations in squats that use dumbbells, kettle bells and bands may enable you to target more muscles.

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